VSPs: Vanity- or Subsidy-Publishers

In this new era of digital and print-on-demand publishing, just about everyone can claim to be a publisher. Although there are a few honest Vanity or Subsidy Publishers (VSPs) that fulfill contractual promises, there are also many that engage in a wide range of unethical or fraudulent practices. AUTHOR BEWARE.

Misrepresentation. Although “Publishing” may be a part of their name, a VSP is NOT a traditional publisher. Some VSPs present themselves as “joint venture” or “co-op” or “partner” or “equity” publishers, suggesting that they’re contributing their own resources to the relationship. Fee-based publishing is fee-based publishing, and whatever you’re paying, it more-than covers expenses. Do NOT sign any contract with a VSP without legal counsel.

Overcharges. VSPs charge a fee to produce your book. They want money up-front and/or a percentage of sales, including a long-term claim on authors’ rights. Costs can rise into the five-figure range just for production. Be wary of bait-and-switch tactics where once you are under contract, they nickle-and-dime you with “must-haves”, which are sometimes actually “free” if you were to self-publish.

Quantity vs. Quality. Some VSPs are not always selective about the types of books they publish; many are just trying to make a sale. VSPs often target authors of memoirs or genealogies or family recipe compilations — intended for family and friends or to be given as gifts — and are sometimes over-priced. Some VSPs are also known for shoddy production standards. If you are using your book to market your business, you want it to be of the highest quality available, especially if you are footing the bill.

Marketing & Distribution. VSPs rarely offer valid distribution or marketing, and this task typically falls upon the author. They have no economic incentive to do so — their principal source of income isn’t the sale of books to the public, but the sale of services to authors.

Printers are NOT Publishers. Traditional printers, looking for additional income can market themselves as VSPs — AUTHOR BEWARE: a “printer-is-a-printer” and will not be offering distribution or marketing services. Printers are selling multiple copies of books, quite often leaving you with boxes of unsold books in your garage or car trunk.VSPs:

For a current list of AUTHOR BEWARE VSPs, check out Mark Levine’s self-published book, “The Fine Print of Self-Publishing”.